That the noughties was the decade of the batsman isn't in doubt - pitches became easier, boundaries became shorter, bats became heavier and meatier, and fast bowlers lost their pace. Peter Roebuck analyses these aspects here, but in terms of numbers what all of this translated into was the best 10-year period for batsmen since the 1940s.
In 464 Tests in the last decade, the overall average runs per wicket was 34.17, with 945 centuries. Similarly, the ODIs produced the highest run rate ever - 4.89 - with a whopping 261 scores in excess of 300, more than three-and-a-half times the figure in the previous decade.
Batsmen clearly ruled the roost in the 2000s, but despite it the 2000s was also the decade with the lowest percentage of drawn Tests in almost 100 years. The Durban Test between South Africa and England was the 350th match to produce a decisive result in the decade (it was fitting that both Boxing Day Tests ended decisively), a decade percentage of 76. In the 1990s only 347 Tests were played, and yet 124 ended in draws, 10 more than in the 2000s.
The Test stats for top-order batsmen (Nos. 1 to 7) in each decade indicates that in the 2000s there was a hundred scored every 12 innings, the best frequency since the 1940s, when a century was scored every 10 innings. The average runs per dismissal in the last decade was 38.37, but in the last three years - 2007 to 2009 - it went up to 39.97, which suggests that the early part of the 2010s will see more of the same.
|Decade||Tests||Runs||Average||100s/ 50s||Inngs per 100|
The most telling stat in ODIs was the number of scores of 300 or more - what was once a rarity became the norm. In the 1980s, a 300-plus total was scored, on an average, once every 43 games; in the 90s it came down to 13.14, and in the 2000s it reduced further to once every 5.38 matches. It became even more frequent in the last four years, with 145 such scores in 467 matches - an average of one in 4.32 games. The eight highest scores in ODIs - all of them more than 400 - were scored during this period.
Australia and India led the way with 47 scores of 300 or more in the last decade, well ahead of Pakistan, who had 35. India were also at the forefront in terms of conceding more than 300 - they did it 40 times, well clear of second-placed Zimbabwe. Not surprisingly, India hosted the most matches in which 300 or more were scored, closely followed by South Africa.
|Period||ODIs||Average||Run rate||100s/ 50s||300+ totals||ODIs per 300+|
The biggest indicator of batting dominance in the last decade is the number of batsmen who averaged more than 50 in Tests. There used to be a time when an average of 50 separated the truly great batsmen from the merely good ones, but going by the numbers in the 2000s, the definitions need to change. Among batsmen who played 30 or more innings in the top seven in the 2000s, 21 had an average of over 50. (It would have been 22 had Kevin Pietersen scored a run more - he finished with an average of 49.98.) Given that 116 batsmen qualified under these criteria in the decade, more than 18% of all batsmen averaged on the right side of 50. In the 1990s, only five out of 94 batsmen qualified, a percentage of 5.32. In the 2000s, seven averaged more than 55, which suggests that 55 is perhaps the new 50 in terms of a benchmark for the truly great.
|Decade||Tot. no. of batsmen||Average >= 50||Percentage|
The table below lists the top batsmen of the decade in Tests, against all teams and against the top eight. Most of them benefited slightly due to the opportunities to play Bangladesh and Zimbabwe, but for a couple of players it worked in reverse - VVS Laxman and Justin Langer averaged more than 50 against the top sides, but their averages slipped to below 50 when numbers against Zimbabwe and Bangladesh were included. Sachin Tendulkar and Steve Waugh were among those whose runs against the two lesser teams helped their overall decade averages go past 50. Even excluding runs against Bangladesh and Zimbabwe, 20 batsmen averaged more than 50 in the 2000s, which indicates just how good a period it was for batting.
|Batsman||Runs (all teams)||Average||100s/ 50s||Runs (top 8 teams)||Average||100s/ 50s|
|Andy Flower||2206||63.02||6/ 11||1968||61.50||5/ 10|
|Ricky Ponting||9456||58.73||32/ 40||8837||57.75||30/ 36|
|Jacques Kallis||8630||58.70||27/ 42||7813||55.41||24/ 39|
|Mohammad Yousuf||6439||58.53||23/ 23||5714||54.41||20/ 20|
|Gautam Gambhir||2553||56.73||8/ 10||2235||54.51||7/ 9|
|Kumar Sangakkara||7524||55.32||21/ 32||6112||51.79||17/ 26|
|Mahela Jayawardene||8187||55.31||25/ 30||7023||53.61||20/ 27|
|Rahul Dravid||8558||54.85||22/ 42||7320||51.54||18/ 36|
|Inzamam-ul-Haq||4978||54.70||17/ 22||4455||53.03||14/ 22|
|Brian Lara||6366||54.41||21/ 19||5971||53.79||19/ 18|
|Hashan Tillakaratne||1573||54.24||5/ 4||1404||56.16||5/ 3|
|Graham Thorpe||3145||53.30||10/ 15||2901||51.80||10/ 12|
|Steve Waugh||2825||53.30||11/ 9||2430||47.64||9/ 7|
|Sachin Tendulkar||7129||53.20||21/ 31||5758||47.19||15/ 29|
|Matthew Hayden||8364||52.93||29/ 29||7507||50.38||26/ 26|
|Virender Sehwag||6248||52.50||17/ 19||6049||53.06||17/ 18|
|Shivnarine Chanderpaul||6435||52.31||19/ 35||6029||54.31||18/ 34|
|Michael Hussey||3638||51.97||10/ 19||3396||50.68||9/ 19|
|Thilan Samaraweera||3824||50.31||10/ 21||2970||46.40||8/ 14|
|Michael Clarke||3919||50.24||12/ 17||3824||51.67||12/ 17|
|Younis Khan||5260||50.09||16/ 21||5007||51.09||15/ 20|
|VVS Laxman||6291||49.92||14/ 37||5970||51.02||13/ 37|
|Justin Langer||5994||48.73||18/ 21||5864||50.55||18/ 20|
|Kevin Pietersen||4799||49.98||16/ 16||4799||49.98||16/ 16|
If the batsmen had it so good, then obviously the bowlers suffered, which is exactly what the numbers show. The runs conceded per wicket for bowlers went up to 34.10 for the decade, which, again, is the highest since the 1940s.
Of the 85 bowlers who bowled more than 3000 deliveries in the last decade, only 19 of them averaged less than 30, which is 22%; in the 1990s, 50% of the bowlers fitted into this category, which indicates how much the bowlers slipped. Of the top six wicket-takers of the decade, five averaged more than 25, and three more than 30.
|Decade||Tot. bowlers||Average<25||Percentage||Average>=25 and <30||Percentage|
Of the top five bowlers in the decade in terms of Test bowling averages (with the 3000-ball cut-off) only one, Muttiah Muralitharan, is still active, and his recent performances suggest he is on the slide. Shane Bond's retirement from Tests is a massive blow for the bowling fraternity, whose hopes now rest on promising younger bowlers like Mohammad Aamer and Kemar Roach to ensure that their plight in the 2010s is better than in the decade gone by.
|Bowler||Wkts (all teams)||Average||5WI/ 10WM||Wkts (top 8 teams)||Average||5WI/ 10WM|
|Courtney Walsh||93||19.73||5/ 1||84||20.25||5/ 1|
|Glenn McGrath||297||20.53||14/ 2||289||20.53||14/ 2|
|Muttiah Muralitharan||565||20.97||49/ 20||432||23.48||35/ 15|
|Shane Bond||87||22.09||5/ 1||63||26.22||4/ 0|
|Shoaib Akhtar||144||22.21||11/ 2||117||23.27||10/ 1|
|Mohammad Asif||73||23.01||5/ 1||73||23.01||5/ 1|
|Stuart Clark||94||23.86||2/ 0||93||23.29||2/ 0|
|Dale Steyn||172||23.97||11/ 3||150||24.96||10/ 3|
|Shaun Pollock||260||24.76||6/ 1||242||25.20||6/ 1|
|Shane Warne||357||25.17||21/ 6||340||25.33||20/ 6|
|Jason Gillespie||209||27.09||5/ 0||185||28.88||5/ 0|
|Darren Gough||94||27.42||3/ 0||85||28.28||3/ 0|
|Ryan Sidebottom||77||27.70||5/ 1||77||27.70||5/ 1|
|Waqar Younis||94||27.91||1/ 0||68||32.55||0/ 0|
|Mitchell Johnson||137||28.05||4/ 1||137||28.05||4/ 1|
|Makhaya Ntini||380||28.64||18/ 4||339||29.59||17/ 4|
|Graeme Swann||62||29.41||4/ 0||62||29.41||4/ 0|
|Chris Cairns||68||29.63||4/ 0||44||37.15||2/ 0|
|Chaminda Vaas||247||29.69||8/ 1||214||29.92||8/ 1|
The ODI plunderers
An average of 40 or a strike rate of 80 used to be a high benchmark in days gone by, but in the noughties it wasn't such a tall order. In the 1980s the two feats were almost mutually exclusive - Viv Richards was the only one who combined both. Kapil Dev, Saleem Malik and Ian Botham were among those who scored quickly but fell well short of averaging 40, while Gordon Greenidge, Desmond Haynes, Dean Jones and Javed Miandad were among those who averaged more than 40 but scored at a strike rate of below 80.
In the 1990s Sachin Tendulkar and Saeed Anwar fulfilled both criteria, but no one else. Shahid Afridi, Sanath Jayasuriya and Aravinda de Silva were among those with a high strike rate but sub-40 average, while Michael Bevan, Martin Crowe, Brian Lara and Jacques Kallis were among those with high averages but lower strike rates.
In the 2000s, though, it was much easier to marry the two - 11 players managed it. The list reads thus: Michael Hussey, MS Dhoni, Darren Lehmann, Tendulkar, Pietersen, Matthew Hayden, Ricky Ponting, Shane Watson, Jonty Rhodes, Chris Gayle and Graeme Smith. As many as 44 batsmen scored at a strike rate of more than 80, more than three times the number in the previous decade, which indicates just how much the rules of the game changed.
|Period||Total batsmen||Ave >= 40||SR >=80||Ave>=40 & SR>=80|
|1980s||50||8 (16%)||6 (12%)||1 (2%)|
|1990s||87||13 (14.94%)||10 (11.49%)||2 (2.30%)|
|2000s||118||24 (20.34%)||44 (37.29%)||11 (9.32%)|
Again, it was the lot of the bowlers to suffer. In the 1980s, only 17% of the bowlers who bowled more than 2000 balls in the decade conceded more than 4.5 runs per over; in the 2000s, it increased to more than 66%. In the '80s, there were as many as 18 bowlers - led by Joel Garner and Richard Hadlee - who had an economy rate of less than four runs per over; that number reduced to six in the last decade.
In the 80s and 90s bowlers who averaged less than 25 also had an economy rate of less than 4.5. That relationship didn't hold true in the 2000s, with three bowlers - Brett Lee, Shoaib Akhtar and Makhaya Ntini - taking their wickets at less than 25 but conceding more than four-and-a-half runs to the over.
|Period||Total bowlers||Ave <=25||Econ rate <=4.50||Ave<=25 & ER<=4.50|
|1980s||47||8 (17.02%)||39 (82.98%)||8 (17.02%)|
|1990s||74||12 (16.22%)||52 (70.27%)||12 (16.22%)|
|2000s||104||12 (11.54%)||35 (33.65%)||9 (8.65%)|
There were a few encouraging signs for the bowlers, most notably in the promise shown by Aamer and Roach in Australia, and in the match-winning abilities of Graeme Swann and Stuart Broad in England and South Africa. Mitchell Johnson, Zaheer Khan, James Anderson and Dale Steyn have had moments to savour, and plenty will be expected from them as they lead their teams' bowling attacks into the next decade. Daniel Vettori and Harbhajan Singh lead the spin brigade, but they'll need much more support from the rest of the cast. Batsmen had too much going their way in the 2000s; one can only hope that the bowlers return the favour in the 2010s.
S Rajesh is stats editor of Cricinfo
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